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Apple’s iOS 15 Prioritizes Privacy and Impacts Email Marketing

By Austin Evans, Digital Content Strategist

Email is one of the primary methods of marketing for any business. It represents a targeted list of people who are interested in a brand and a one-on-one way of communicating with them. Traditionally, organizations have been able to use their lists to fuel other marketing efforts as well as see how engaged their audience was with their messaging.


However, email marketing is going to become a lot less accessible to marketers, and very soon.


Apple recently announced that the new iOS 15 update was going to come with several features that allowed users to opt into increased privacy settings.


Hide My Email — Requires iClould+ Subscription


With this feature, iCloud+ subscribers can choose to give an anonymized email address when signing up for a site or promotion.  Any email sent to this randomized email address is then forwarded to the user’s actual email address. This won’t affect communications, but organizations won’t be able to see users’ real email addresses unless the user chooses to share them. This change is going to impact creating lookalike audiences for marketing and generally make lists less valuable as multi-use marketing tools. The good news is that this is a paid service and will likely only be used by a small segment of any given market.


Mail Privacy Protection — Free


Open rate is one of the primary statistics businesses and marketers use when measuring the success of an email campaign. A high open rate indicates interest in the material and an overall positive customer relationship. It’s also a good way to A/B test subject lines, seeing which ones enticed more people to click into the email.  Conversely, a low open rate means that you have an audience that is not that engaged with your message.  


The new iOS update lets all users opt-in to a privacy feature that masks their IP address and prevents email clients from tracking opens and other data. In addition to valuable data, the masking of opens will impact any email automations built around opens as well.


Over the past year, Apple has had anywhere between 40-65% of the US Smartphone market. That, combined with a free update that can be installed with the press of a button, means that email metrics are going to be significantly compromised. Then there is also the chance Samsung or any other smartphone maker feels the need to follow suit in order to keep up with the industry leader.  Long story short, these moves toward user privacy are here to stay, and will continue to be rolled out.


What should organizations do?


First, understand that ultimately what is better for the user experience is better for everyone. After all, regardless of your role within a company, you are also a person who has to deal with the handling of your digital data like everyone else. It’s a good thing to give everyone more control over what brands get access to by default and what users have to opt in to.


Going forward, here are some things you can do to adjust to the more privacy-focused world we are moving toward.


1. Don’t ignore other valuable email data


While the new iOS update can anonymize emails and restrict access to open rates, email marketers still have access to important metrics on which they can build a solid strategy.  Don’t ignore the insight that you can get from clicks and click-through rates and unsubscribe rates. These will help tell the story of how engaging your content is. Many of the major email service providers also have tools that will allow you to track how much traffic came to your site from a given email.


2. Focus more on relationship-building


Almost every privacy feature that rolls out has the option for users to opt-in, as well as allow exceptions for certain sites.  More than ever, being a trusted brand is a competitive advantage. It can give you access to invaluable information that others simply don’t have. This is much easier said than done, but brands need to reframe their strategy around building trust and long-term customer relationships if they want to be able to actually talk to their audience.


3. Build your audience wherever you can


An email list is a great tool for getting a snapshot of your audience, but it is far from the only one. Social media is a great place to build an audience while simultaneously showing the kind of authenticity that will engender trust.  Then there are communities that you can easily tap into — chat boards, subreddits, and online interest groups are all fantastic places to intersect with your audience. 

Perhaps the biggest audience of these is a phone number list.  SMS marketing is prevalent and on the rise, with open rates as high as 98%. The increasing ambiguity of email marketing means this trend will only continue.


New privacy features are going to become more and more commonplace, and it is something brands are going to have to adapt to. However, rather than drag our feet and complain about a loss of information, we need to embrace these new challenges and see them as opportunities to meet our audience in new and better ways.



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